A baby was miraculously found alive in the early hours of July 8 — this past Sunday — after a call to the sheriff’s department launched a search-and-rescue operation in western Montana. (The rescued baby’s hand is seen gripping someone’s finger in the photo, above.)
The man who left him, 32-year-old Francis Carlton Crowley, appeared in court on Tuesday. Court records reveal Crowley said he put the baby down because he was “very heavy,” according to multiple sources.
The 5-month-old infant was found — after a search party heard crying — buried under debris and sticks in the woods at approximately 2:30 a.m., ABC 13 reported. The infant survived nearly nine hours of exposure in the mountains, authorities said.
The baby was found in 46-degree weather faced down in a pile of brush wearing a wet and soiled onesie.
The search party was launched following a call about a threatening man in the Lolo Hot Springs area of Montana’s Lolo National Forest at around 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Crowley had left the wooded area by the time Missoula County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived, and a worrisome fact soon became clear: A baby boy that was left with Crowley hadn’t been seen for several hours, as USA Today and other outlets reported.
When deputies were able to locate him, police said the man appeared intoxicated and made statements leading them to believe the infant might be buried somewhere in the mountain.
The child was found by Missoula County Deputy Ross Jessop with the aid of U.S. Forest Service Officer Nick Scholz and federal, state and local authorities.
“He suffered some minor scrapes and bruising but overall is in good health,” the sheriff’s department spokesperson Brenda Bassett said in a statement Monday about the baby.
A 5-month-old infant who had been buried under piles of sticks and debris in Montana wilderness was miraculously found alive — at least nine hours later. The man accused of abandoning the child said the infant was too "heavy." https://t.co/iZUi2dyeli
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 11, 2018
The search was a challenging one, but law enforcement did not give up.
“Officers continued to search in the various areas where the defendant stated the baby was located, but they had difficulty given the defendant’s numerous inconsistent statements about the baby’s whereabouts,” court records said.
Crowley reportedly admitted using methamphetamine and bath salts.
He is being held on $50,000 bond for criminal endangerment.
“For all of us at the sheriff’s office, this is what we call a miracle,” the sheriff’s office said Monday. “For the officers who were present for this event, it’s especially hard knowing what this small baby endured in the last 24 hours.”